Trent Arnold has a terrific chance of making it as a top professional. He’s quite leggy but he’s got a lovely frame and seems to have all the attributes you need. He has the right attitude and comes from West Derby, home to Melwood. So Trent is another Scouser and apparently, just as I tried to be John Barnes and Steve McMahon, he grew up pretending to be me while playing in the Merseyside parks. He can play as a number 6, a holding midfielder, but he’s versatile and I’ve seen him fill various positions. I know England are all over him. [Steven Gerrard – 2016]
Alexander-Arnold has been a well-known name around Melwood (Liverpool’s training ground) for many years, as illustrated by Gerrard’s comments before his debut. He joined Liverpool’s academy when he was six-years-old and his rise through the ranks saw him become under-16 and 18 captain. Jürgen Klopp gave Trent his chance in a fourth round League Cup tie at Anfield against Tottenham in October 2016, he started the game which Liverpool won 2-1. His meteoric rise has seen him start a Champions League Final and head off to the 2018 World Cup with England, all of this inside of fifty career games for club and country. He is now by no means an unknown talent; his challenge now is to maintain this form and become a mainstay of the Liverpool side and push the likes of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier in an England shirt.
Every fan loves a local lad breaking into their team, Liverpool fans have been searching for their next scouse hero since Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard were reaching the latter stages of their career. Many have looked as though they could be the next star to breakthrough but ended up dropping down divisions or seeing out the end of their contracts. The likes of Jay Spearing, Conor Coady, Jon Flannagan, Adam Morgan, Jordan Rossiter and many others have failed to live up to the name of their predecessors. It is easy to forget that Trent is still only a teenager and his early childhood was centred on supporting a Liverpool side that contained the two scousers that were phenomenally influential. He was first a fan and then a player and pictures of him with both Gerrard and Carragher only go to show how young he really is.
Growing up in West Derby with older brothers meant that Alexander-Arnold was always playing football from a very young age, against bigger and stronger opponents. Living in the vicinity of Melwood gave him exposure to Liverpool at the time of Rafa Benítez’s sides that won the Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as reaching the Champions League Final in 2007. His introduction to playing for Liverpool came through picking names out of a hat for a summer camp, so fine are the margins between being recognised or not. He was immediately signed up by Liverpool and has not looked back since.
He began his career as a midfielder or winger and was a competent member of the squad. However, his determination to break into the reserve side or higher saw a move backwards into the right-back position. Selecting this as his best way into the Liverpool team he adapted his game accordingly. His performances as a right-back for the under-18 side saw him be selected to join the first team on their pre-season tour as a defender. His decision to pursue a defensive slot was proved to be the right one as he was finally seeing a route through to the first-team. His ability to be able to convert positions so competently at such a young age is impressive, Alexander-Arnold spent a lot of time studying the role and how to play there. This determination and effort, combined with terrific talent makes it no surprise that he has found a way into the Liverpool team.
Trent’s top qualities are no doubt his pace and his crossing delivery. In the Champions League Quarter-Final he faced up to Leroy Sané and matched him stride for stride. What made this more impressive was that it came off the back of a disappointing performance against Marcus Rashford. Both of his goals came from Alexander-Arnold’s side and questions were being asked whether he was ready for the biggest games. With Nathanial Clyne and Joe Gomez injured, Klopp had to stick with Trent and he has not looked back since. Perhaps his chance would have been taken had there been other players fit, but all young players need luck to get into a top team. Clyne’s reoccurring injury problems handed the chance to Gomez and Alexander-Arnold to battle out for the right-back place. Gomez seemed to have more composure and Alexander-Arnold was much more comfortable going forward. To hear that Trent studied so hard to become a right back illustrates why he came back from his errors, there is no doubt he studied the tapes of his performance against Manchester United and learnt from his mistakes.
His show of ability in delivering free-kicks was best exemplified against Hoffenheim in the Champions League qualifier when he scored a vital away goal. When he is on the field he takes most of the set-pieces and this is a great compliment to his abilities. His pace is what has given him the edge against many top wingers and his defensive frailties seemed to have been ironed out. When injury and tiredness hit Klopp’s side toward the end of last season, Alexander-Arnold started in midfield against Stoke City in April 2018. This was the position Trent had played in for most of his career, he stood out a lot less in a jaded Liverpool team that drew 0-0 with the ultimately relegated Stoke. Many believe the long-term position for him may lie in the centre of midfield where his attacking prowess and defensive knowledge could be further utilised. He still needs some work on his strength to secure that position, but as he is still a teenager this is understandable. He looks certain to be the first choice right-back for next season and a mainstay of the Liverpool side for many more years to come.
Klopp’s confidence in the young man has certainly been repaid thus far. His goal against Swansea in the Premier League at the Kop end in December, really cemented his emergence into the side. His impressive free-kick away to Hoffenheim and scoring the seventh away to Maribor, despite being against smaller sides, show his ability to produce in the Champions League. Every hurdle placed in front of him has been passed with ease. It is disappointing for everyone at the club that there was no victory in Kiev but his selection in the game was in no doubt. For such a young man to be the certain starter, even when his competition for the position is fit, shows his stature in the game today.
His selection for the England squad was a surprise for some. Not for his ability but just for the fact that he had not represented the senior team before. He impressed in an England shirt against Costa Rica before the World Cup and despite not getting much playing time, he was part of the England squad that performed so well in Russia. He played against Belgium in Saransk and was entrusted with many of the set-pieces during the game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold looks ready to become the next scouse hero at Anfield. He has every attribute to make it far in the game, his passion and ability has taken him to immense heights in such a short time. A lot of this must be owed to his strong family beliefs, he still lives at home with his parents and brothers and this makes it easier to understand how he stays so calm. He has breezed past every challenge that he has faced so far and it looks certain that he will become a phenomenally important figure at Liverpool for many, many years to come.
By Peter Kenny Jones with Infographic by Ellis Thompson